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Fremantle acquires 51% majority stake in UK factual producer Wildstar Films

L-R: Vanessa Berlowitz, Mark Linfield, Mandy Chang and Simon Andreae

Fremantle has acquired a 51% majority stake in UK factual production company Wildstar Films, which is led by co-founders Mark Linfield and Vanessa Berlowitz.

The natural history and factual specialist, based in Bristol, produces projects including America the Beautiful, Epic Adventures with Bertie Gregory and America’s National Parks for Disney+ and National Geographic.

Fremantle said the deal would allow Wildstar to scale up as international broadcasters and platforms increasingly look for premium factual and specialist factual content. The RTL Group-owned content giant also said the majority acquisition reaffirmed its strategic plan to expand its production infrastructure for premium docs and series.

The company is currently in production on two feature-length films for Disneynature and multiple premium series for Disney+ and National Geographic, including Queens, Sentient (with Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures) and further series in partnership with high-profile Hollywood talent.

The deal comes after Wildstar recently expanded its leadership team with the appointment of BBC Natural History Unit head of development Doug Mackay-Hope as senior VP of development and production, and award-winning editor Nigel Buck as executive editor.

Fremantle UK CEO Simon Andreae said: “Within four short years, Mark, Vanessa and their team have built Wildstar from a brand new startup to one of the fastest-growing, most dynamic and most imaginative brands in Natural History.

“They bring creative excellence, technical innovation and a true sense of joy to all that they touch. We are thrilled to welcome them to the Fremantle family and to join them in the next exciting step on their journey.”

Linfield and Berlowitz, whose other credits include Planet Earth and Frozen Planet, added in a joint statement: “Fremantle is a fantastic fit as a partner – we share a similar culture and the same ambition of working with the best talent on and off screen to make genre-defining shows; we’re also really excited that their international teams will help us grow Wildstar and reach more viewers around the world.”

Mandy Chang, Fremantle’s head of global documentaries, said: “Wildstar Films is an extraordinary company with strong core values, who take huge pride in their work, which delights and, importantly, inspires millions of people to think differently about natural history and being better citizens to our planet.”

Fremantle’s investment in Wildstar follows a year of frenetic M&A activity, including the acquisitions of UK production company Dancing Ledge, Italy’s Lux Vide, international development and production company Fabel (Bosch) and Australian-American company Eureka Productions (Parental Guidance, Finding Magic Mike).

It also acquired 12 production labels in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark from Nordic Entertainment Group, Irish production company Element Pictures and, most recently, documentary producer 72 Films.

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